IN a clear sign that Pakistan and South Africa are moving towards improving defence cooperation and production, both nations recently inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
The MoU titled Defence and Defence Industrial Cooperation was signed during an official visit to Pakistan by South Africa’s Defence and Defence Industry Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif. The meeting was held at the Defence Ministry in Rawalpindi.
The MoU will guide the training of armed forces, promote formal information exchanges and increase joint initiatives.
In addition, it will foster collaboration between defence respective industry heavyweights – Denel Land Systems and Denel Aviation in South Africa, and the Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Pakistan. A joint committee will be formed to oversee cooperation.
Mapisa-Nqakula, along with a high-level delegation, was visiting Pakistan for four days from March 26 to 29 after being invited by Khawaja. Throughout the meeting, Khawaja stated Pakistan was reducing its dependence on Western nations and building new relationships.
“We are strengthening ties with allies like South Africa,” he said.
Only the week prior on March 23, Chinese and Saudi Arabian troops, along with a Turkish band, marched alongside Pakistani troops during the Pakistan Day Parade, a day that celebrates when Muslims started advocating for an independent state in British India. South African National Defence Force chief of staff General Solly Zacharia Shoke also attended as a guest.
After speaking highly of diplomatic relations with Pakistan, Mapisa-Nqakula said: “Islamabad is a peaceful place — I am amazed there is no disturbance as was portrayed earlier.” Mapisa-Nqakula also said the two countries would “hold discussions on the purchase of the Super Mushtaq jet” in the future.
South Africa is not shying away from engagement with South and Central Asian governments.
Armed with an advanced defence industry that can export goods comparatively cheaper than other Western nations, South Africa is taking advantage of recently inked deals.
On Dec 13, 2016, South Africa and the Islamic Republic of Iran signed a MoU that tightened their defence relationship. South Africa is requesting permission from the United Nations Security Council to push through a deal with Iran that would facilitate the export of Umkhonto surface-to-air missiles worth US$117 million.
Pakistan, on the other hand, in a bid to bolster its strategic position vis-à-vis India, is taking advantage of dampened ties with the United States to find new allies.
Its geostrategic importance makes Pakistan a necessary ally in the fight against terrorism. But also, a healthy relationship with Pakistan is important for states seeking to enhance regional security in Asia and the Middle East. The country acts as a bridge between the two volatile regions.
That said, Pakistan is often criticised for supporting Islamic militant groups to meet its political objectives.
Pakistan and South Africa, however, agreed last week to exchange information on combating terrorism. Mapisa-Nqakula reportedly commended Pakistan army for its successes in combating terrorism in the country.
Describing the handshake between both countries as significant, defence analysis group Quwa said: “The formal MoU should provide a strong official basis to enable procurement, which would be a long-term boon for South Africa in terms of big-ticket commercial opportunities.